Leadership, Reflection, Staff Development

Pass it on: top time-saving tips

work-life-balanceI’m a big fan of the #teacher5aday hashtags and discussion of work-life balance on Twitter that I’m always talking about things I’ve seen online or great little ‘tweaks’ that make life just that little bit easier. I’m going to attempt to recap some the great advice I’ve been given for work-life balance (both in person and online). Whilst I’d love to take credit for some of these ideas, they’re just a mix of things I’ve thought about and things I’ve picked up along the way.

  1. A resource/marking should never take you longer to prepare than the students to use.
  2. Finished a task? Got 5 mins spare? Pick the top two books from a class pile and mark them.
  3. Get students to put marked books on one pile and unmarked on another. Put the unmarked on the top, making it nice and easy to do #2
  4. At the end of a lesson get students to place their books on the red, amber or green pile based on understanding. Collect in with green on bottom, amber in the middle and red on top. That way your most targeted marking is hitting the students who need it most.
  5. Every now and again place your highly able/PP/SEND/EAL students on top (as appropriate). Mark specifically with that focus.
  6. Carry a pen around the class with you. Mark work as and when and give verbal feedback to students – with or without a verbal feedback stamper.
  7. Remember: not all work needs to be marked. Marking and feedback are different.
  8. Work out when your most/least productive times are and plan your work accordingly.
  9. Before starting a task, ask ‘how will this affect student progress?’ If you’re not sure, don’t do it.
  10. Paperwork? See above.
  11. Make sure your markbook is up to date. Always.
  12. Using your markbook (see #11) select 6 students a week that you’re going to specifically watch. It’s amazing what you notice.
  13. If marking a class set of books drags or you get distracted, mark books in piles of 10 and then do something else in between.
  14. Make the most of students working in silence. Once you’ve got them away on a task, it’s not a crime to sit down, as long as you’re periodically checking they’re on task.
  15. Create the kinds of schemes of work that you’d want to receive.Aim for ‘pick up and tweak’. It will save you lots of time and you’ll have happy colleagues because you’ve saved them time too.
  16. Seriously consider whether making a worksheet is worth it.
  17. Make the most of reprographics staff. Get organised (see having great schemes) and put any resources you need in for bulk copying. Better still – put some in for your colleagues as well.
  18. Avoid spending hours on powerpoints. Do you really need all the animations?
  19. Share resources and powerpoints. Done a great lesson (even if you think it was ‘just ok’!)? Share it. That’s 15 minutes saved for somebody else.
  20. Be relentless with chasing detentions, homework etc. It will pay off.
  21. Don’t mark substandard work. Reissue it.
  22. Have classroom routines. Decide how you want students to enter/leave and insist on it. It might take time but it will eventually create a purposeful learning environment and you’ll get through more in the lesson.
  23. Speak to trainees. They’re off round different schools and will bring some new ideas to your departments. Some might be rehashed version of a training day from years ago but they’ll have some gems up their sleeves too.
  24. Be thoughtful when using peer assessment. It’s no substitute for teacher marking – students really value US looking through it.
  25. Don’t be afraid to ask colleagues if they have a lesson or resource they could send you. Why reinvent the wheel?
  26. Make the most of free resources available online.
  27. Reduce the amount of (close to) single-use resources you use. Card sorts, I’m looking at you.
  28. Record all the little things you do to support learning in a class file. This is valuable for appraisal or for contacting parents because you’ve got all your evidence ready.
  29. Split exercise books into 3-5 smaller piles when they’re being handed out by students. They’ll get out quicker and contribute to a fuss-free start to the lesson.
  30. Ring-fence time for friends and family. And talk about the fun things you’re doing with colleagues. Crush the workplace martyrdom conversations.
  31. Reuse material between years and classes if it’s relevant. You don’t have to redo everything from scratch.
  32. Get on #Teacher5aday for excellent discussions about wellbeing.
  33. Talk about workload with colleagues. Sometimes it’s actually nice to hear somebody else is feeling as swamped as you – though avoid being a mood hover.
  34. Set realistic goals. Don’t take 60 books home at a weekend if you know you’ve got things on and they’re just going to sit looking at you.
  35. Give yourself permission to have time off. Don’t get caught in negative mental cycles where you ‘should be doing more’.
  36. When contributing to whole school projects, think carefully about the time-commitment and what you can reasonably do. If you’re swamped, then committing to running an extra revision session might be too much, but being a staff rep to the PTA might not be.
  37. Say ‘no’. There’s nothing wrong with saying ‘Unfortunately I’ve got too much on to do that properly. Maybe next time.‘ That’s much better than saying ‘yes’ and doing a poor job.
  38. Be more collaborative and less competitive. Remember, the best leaders build people up.
  39. Keep up to date with education updates. It’ll help inform your priorities and approaches. Most importantly, it’s also great for considering anything prefaced with ‘Ofsted want…’
  40. Create a self-service board where students can access revision, catch-up etc. It promotes independence and is great if you get phonecalls from parents asking for extra work.
  41. Consider the impact of any new initiative before suggesting it. Again, is it solving a problem in a time-efficient way?
  42. Create a home-study pack for KS3 full of skills etc that relate to your curriculum. Then you can select tasks/pages for students who are out of school, on extended days, need additional material.
  43. Network with other schools and find out what good stuff is going on in other schools. This can be face to face or via Twitter.  Take the best and see if you can apply it to your classroom.

Finally, share, share share! These tips are things I’ve collected from some amazing colleagues over time. Teaching is hard work and the more we can share and avoid this ‘one teacher on an island’ thing, the happier and healthier we’ll be.



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